Vitamin D: An essential nutrient for physical and mental health

by Tatiana Kisluk
Posted 6/1/23

Vitamin D is one of the most essential vitamins in the human body.

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Vitamin D: An essential nutrient for physical and mental health


Vitamin D is one of the most essential vitamins in the human body. Adequate vitamin D levels are needed for bones and organs to function properly and boost the immune system. Vitamin D also helps repair damage to DNA, helps the body to improve reduced vitamins and minerals, and decreases inflammation or infection. Low vitamin D levels may put you at risk for health issues including certain types of cancer, heart disease, liver disease, bone issues, obesity, and the common cold.

Vitamin D and mental health effects

Recent growing studies suggest that vitamin D also plays a role in mental health, and people with mental disorders may have lower vitamin D levels. Low vitamin D levels in the blood may contribute to depression, mood changes, anxiety, and seasonal affective disorder.

Who is at risk of vitamin D deficiency?

The body produces vitamin D when the skin is exposed to sunlight. Even though the sun is present almost everywhere, vitamin D deficiency is common in the world. People who avoid outdoor activities, people with darker skin, older adults, and those who live in cold and dark climates where the sun is not strong enough to provide adequate levels of vitamin D are at the highest risk for lack of vitamin D. 

People with liver disease, kidney disease, and celiac disease are also at a higher risk for vitamin D deficiency. These groups of people are at a high risk of depression. In addition, people who deal with depression may not eat properly which may worsen vitamin D deficiency.

Symptoms of vitamin D deficiency

Vitamin D deficiency presents symptoms similar to depression. Some of the symptoms are hopelessness, sadness, fatigue, loss of interest in activities, lack of concentration and focus, anxiety, forgetfulness, weight loss or gain, and trouble sleeping. It could be a sign of a vitamin D deficiency. Check your vitamin D level if you face any of these symptoms like depression.

What to do

It is not a good idea to diagnose yourself and take supplements available on the market because too much vitamin D can lead to a buildup of calcium which can create kidney problems and bone pain. Talk with your healthcare provider and ask for a blood test to find out the level of vitamin D in your blood. 

The best way to naturally increase vitamin D levels is with a few minutes of sun exposure without sunscreen cream or lotion. It is enough to boost levels. But don’t forget that long sun exposure can burn your skin.

Eat food rich in vitamin D to help boost your levels. Some of the best seafood sources are fatty fish like salmon, cod liver oil, mackerel, sardines, tuna, cod, shrimp, and herring. Egg yolk, beef liver, cereal, fortified orange juice, mushrooms, almond milk, cheese, yogurt, and milk are other great food products enriched in vitamin D.

Practice healthy sleeping habits and exercise regularly.

Tatiana Kisluk is an experienced nurse practitioner specializing in family health, a graduate of Villanova University and is a doctoral student at Penn West University.